208 MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE This has a very close bearing on the unity of Chinese culture throughout the old empire. More important than that, the use of the characters made the reading of the Confucian classics possible after the lapse of a thousand years. The idea that the Confucian classics could have become unreadable in the sixth century of our era is extremely intriguing, and one is tempted to wonder what would have happened to the tremendous respect for Confucianism had that happened. Actually, the Chinese characters underwent a great revolu- tion at the time of the burning of books by Ch'in Shihhuang, and to-day Confucian scholars are split into two camps, one believing in the classic texts in "ancient scripts" which are supposed to have escaped destruction in the walls of Confucius's own home, and the other believing in the "modern scripts" which were handed down orally by old scholars who had committed the classic texts to memory, and survived the short- lived Ch'in Dynasty. Nevertheless, from that time onward (213 B.C.), there is a continuity of writing, with a com- paratively unimportant evolution of forms, which must largely account for the hypnotic power these classics have exercised over the Chinese minds. What is true of the early texts of Confucianism is true of the entire literary heritage, especially that coming after the Han days. A Chinese schoolboy who can read an author of a hun- dred years ago could, by that very training, read works of the thirteenth, tenth or second century, almost in the same sense that a modern artist can appreciate the Venus de Milo with the same ease as he appreciates Rodin. Would the influence of the classic heritage have been so powerful, and would the Chinese mind have been so conservative and worshipful of the past, had that past been less readily understood? One wonders. Yet in another way the use of the characters helped in the creation of a fairly stable literary language, quite different from the spoken language, and rather too difficult for the average scholar to master. Whereas a phonetic script would! follow naturally the changes and idioms of a living language, the language of written symbols, by being less dependent upon sounds, achieved a greater freedom irx idiom and grammar. It did not have to obey the laws of any spoken language, and, in.